01 of 09
Making a Focaccia: Start with the Dough
Focaccia, or schiacciata, is easy to make flatbread. I took these photos at the Nardi Family's villa in Montelupo Fiorentino, the day Francesco roasted the piglet for his sister Francesca's birthday, and since they were expecting about 25 people they made a lot.
The dough pictured here is about 10 pounds, while the section Margherita (Francesca's Mom) is separating is about 2 pounds (1 k) and will be sufficient for a single large focaccia to be baked in a (roughly) 80 cm meter by 40 cm (32 by 16 inch or so) pan.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Making Focaccia: Spread the Dough
Margherita's pan is larger than most home ovens (mine, at least) can handle.
To make focaccia on a baking sheet-sized pan you'll need:
6 1/4 cups (750 g) unbleached all purpose flour
A cake or package of active yeast
About 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) warm water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt, both finely and coarsely ground (kosher will work well for the latter)
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Make a mound of flour on your work surface, scoop a well into the middle of it, and pour in the yeast mixture together with 5 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 healthy pinches of fine salt.
Knead the mixture, adding further warm water is necessary until you obtain a fairly firm, homogeneous dough -- figure 10-15 minutes of kneading. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for 2 hours.
Oil your pan or baking sheet, and spread the dough over it -- pull the dough out with your hands, stretching it to fill the pan. Do not roll the dough, because the texture of the focaccia will suffer.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
Continue Spreading and Pulling the Dough
Continue spreading the dough, stretching and pulling it. When you are finished it should be a bit less than a half inch (1 cm) thick in the center, and a little thicker around the edges.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Dimple the Dough
The top of a focaccia is always dimpled. Here Margherita is using a wooden spoon with wooden dowels set into it that make quick work of the dimpling. You could also use the back of a teaspoon or your fingertips.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
The Dimpler, Close Up
The dimpler with which to dimple focaccia. One can also use this tool to remove spaghetti from boiling water.
After dimpling the focaccia, let it rise for 10-15 minutes in the pan -- you can use this time to prepare the toppings if you are using them.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Making Focaccia: Toppings
Focaccia always has something on it. The simplest topping is a sprinkling of olive oil and sale grosso, coarse-grained sea salt (Kosher salt is quite similar to sale grosso), but you can do more. For example:
Finely slice a few onions, separate the rings, and sprinkle them over the focaccia. Here Margherita has also added funghi sott'olio, mushrooms packed in oil.
You could dot the focaccia with cubes of pancetta, and Margherita did with another focaccia that will be pictured shortly, adding onion rings as well.
You could dot the focaccia with pitted black olives, or thinly sliced grilled bell peppers.
If you want to be simple, rosemary needles, or crumbled walnuts (or both, but that's not so simple)
Or add anything else that suits your fancy, but be careful about topping focaccia with cheese, especially if you're using a hot oven -- if it over browns it will become bitter.
When you have finished sprinkling toppings, drizzle some olive oil over the focaccia, and sale grosso (kosher salt) to taste.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
Baking the Focaccia
Francesco was still heating the oven to get it ready for the piglet when they began to bake, hence the abundance of flame. In terms of temperature, the oven was probably about 550-600 F (close to 300 C -- there was still some soot on the walls, which burns off completely at about 700 F, or 350 C), and the baking time for the focaccia was about 10 minutes.
If you are using a home oven, preheat it to 400 - 450 F (200 - 225 C) and bake the focaccia on a low rack until golden, about 20-25 minutes, turning the pan 180 degrees once partway through. Then remove it from the oven and let it cool. Don't let it over brown or it will toughen.
One option, if you are using a home oven, is to put a bowl of water in the oven with the focaccia. This will keep it from becoming hard.Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
A Focaccia with Onions and Pancetta
This focaccia came out slightly more browned. The next step is to cut it into strips, and enjoy.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
Plain Focaccia, and Focaccia with Onions and Mushrooms
Here we have plain focaccia (perfect for those who don't like toppings, and also ideal for making sandwiches -- you open it horizontally and fill it with the cold cut you prefer), and focaccia with onions and mushrooms. Again, cut into strips and enjoy.